If you already know me, then you know that I’m a bit of a foodie. So it won’t surprise you then that one of my favourite things to do when I visit Singapore is eat. In my opinion, Singapore food is seriously underrated.
I think part of the problem is that so many people visit Singapore on a short stopover, and they don’t have enough time to explore local food. Or, when they do get to a hawker centre, they’re so overwhelmed by all the choices, unfamiliarity and chaos, that they just don’t know where to start.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in Singapore for my day job, and over the last couple of years I’ve put in the time (selflessly) sampling the best of Singapore food.Some of these finds are local specialities. Some are famous. Some aren’t even from Singapore, but if you’re eating in Singapore you can’t miss ‘em.Click To Tweet
Most of my recommendations are inexpensive. Singapore has no shortage of expensive, fancy restaurants – and I’ve gotta say, I’ve been underwhelmed by every single one I’ve been to. Real Singapore food, that locals eat, is not expensive. It’s quick, flavourful and homey (in an Asian kind of way).
This list is short, only comprised of my must eat dishes – the Singapore food that I go back for time and time again. Some of which are now infamous in my family because I talk about them so much (I’m looking at you Koign Amman).
And, because I’m not a monster, I’ve also included my favourite places to get them. And trust me, I’ve tried a few to narrow this list down!
So, in no particular order…
The Best of Singapore Food: What To Eat & Where To Find It
Local Breakfast: Kaya Toast from Ya Kun
In our Singapore office, I have a bit of a reputation for three things:
- Asking people what they had for breakfast (I’m curious, yo)
- Drinking too much coffee
- Eating Kaya toast for breakfast, every single time I’m there. Every day. And sometimes for dinner.
You might have guessed, this is possibly my favourite thing to eat in Singapore.
A classic Singaporean breakfast, there’s hundreds of places you can get it from. My favourite rendition comes from Ya Kun, coincidentally the pioneers of Kaya Toast.
At least once, order a set – kaya toast, soft boiled eggs and kopi (coffee). Add a bit of soy, salt and pepper to your eggs, mix ‘em up and dip in the toast.
Honestly, this is a love or hate thing. Personally, I’m a fan of toast on it’s own. Brad, on the other hand (and most people I know) go crazy for the egg combo.
What can I say, I like it simple!
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
Address: Various, check them out here
Open hours: Depends on location, normally 7:30am – 10pm
Prices: Expect to spend about $5 for your breakfast set (cash only)
Getting there: Often located in malls or MRT stations, there’ll be one close by
Chicken Rice: Five Star Chicken Rice
Chicken rice is a Singapore food institution.
The first time I tried it, way back in 2010, I wasn’t a fan. Quite frankly, I thought it kinda sucked. Turns out, I just hadn’t had a good one.
Now, you may have heard of Tian Tian, a one hatted chicken rice at the Maxwell Hawker centre. It’s good. But Five Star Chicken rice is great.
If you haven’t had chicken rice, you might think it looks really bland. But not this one. It’s so flavoursome, in an unexpectedly comforting way.
No matter where you have chicken rice, you’ll be asked if you want roasted or steamed. I prefer steamed (that’s the classic). If you’d prefer chicken breast, just say so when you order and they’ll be sure to accomodate.
Please, try it. I’ll be very surprised if you don’t love it.
Five Star Chicken Rice
Addresses: 191 East Coast Road (the original), 7 Cheong Chin Nam Road and 419 River Valley Road (closest to Orchard)
Open hours: Varies, but 10am – 2am daily at the East Coast outlet
Prices: $5 for the classic steamed chicken and rice set
Getting there: Rely on google maps to help you find the closest one – none are particularly convenient by MRT, but well connected by bus
Casual dinner: Satay Street / La Pau Sat
It’s a touch cliché, but for your first visit to Singapore you just have to do Satay Street.
Why? Well, Satay is a religion, and the satay here is great. But more importantly, it’s also a super unique side of Singapore to see. Who woulda thought that a metropolis like this would close off a street, every night, in the middle of the city, for people to come together with satay in one hand and a Tiger beer in the other.
Go late-ish when it starts to cool down, and take a seat near the stall you want to eat at (I can’t recommend “Best Satay 7 & 8” highly enough). They’ll give you a few different sized sets to choose from, but if that’s too much then just ask and they’ll do something smaller for you too.
If you’ve still got room, ask the guys to bring over someone selling Prata to make it a real meal!
La Pau Sat (Satay Street)
Address: Best Satay 7 & 8, Boon Tat Street (in between Shenton Way and Robinson Road)
Open hours: Daily, 7pm till late
Prices: $7 for 10 satay sticks (accepts cash only)
Getting there: A short walk from Telok Ayer or Raffles Place MRT stations
Brunch: Steak Benedict at Forty Hands
Right now, Singaporeans are obsessed with brunch. It seems like new places are popping up all over the shop! Rule number one of brunch in Singapore: do not, I repeat, do not, order your favourite western brunch item. For me, that’s pancakes or waffles, and I’ve been disappointed every time. I’ve also had a series of lousy eggs bennys.
No matter where you brunch, I recommend you order something a little different from your standard. At 40 hands, this is the Steak Benedict. A very, very decent eggs benedict rendition, with the most gorgeous, tender steak underneath – served with a side of spicy, roasted potatoes.
(While you’re in the area, have an explore – Books Actually just down the street is an amazing shop to blow some time, and they even have an in house cat!)
Address: 78 Yong Saik Street #01-12
Open hours: 7:30am – 7pm daily, later on Thurs, Fri & Sat
Prices: My breakfast and coffee set me back $25.50
Getting there: 10 min walk from Tiong Bahru MRT station
Pastry: Kouign Amann from Tiong Bahru Bakery
A while back my Mum and I did a girls weekend to Singapore and randomly encountered someone giving out samples of these in a mall. We were immediately obsessed – to this day, every time I go to Singapore, my Mum reminds me to go get one (love you, Mum).
I’m not going to bang on about it, but when they say they’re “the Paris of the yeast” they are not kidding.
Tiong Bahru Bakery
Addresses: 56 Eng Hoon Street #01-70 (Tiong Bahru), 252 North Bridge Road #B1-11 (Raffles City Shopping Centre), 310 Orchard Road #01-16B (TANGS Orchard)
Open hours: Varies, 8am – 8/10pm daily
Prices: A pastry will set you back $3-4 (a bargain, if you ask me)
Getting there: Depending on which outlet, a close walk from City Hall, Esplanade, Orchard or Tiong Bahru MRT stations
Western style coffee: Toby’s Estate
Coffee is slowly getting better in Singapore, but there’s still more misses than hits.
For guaranteed good coffee, every time, hit up my Aussie favourite Toby’s Estate. It’s the perfect spot to chill out and people watch on the weekend or in the early morning.
A bit of a pain to get to unless you stay close by, but if you’re as coffee-mad as I am it’ll be worth the trip.
Address: 8 Rodyk Street #01-03/04 (Robertson Quay)
Open hours: 7:30am – 6/7pm daily
Prices: A cappuccino goes for $5
Getting there: 15 min walk from Fort Canning MRT Station
Funky find: Japanese fusion at Tanuki Raw
On my last trip to Singapore, I asked one of my local colleagues where they’d head out to dinner with friends on the weekend. She pointed me towards this amazing little bar / restaurant… and warned me about the line.
I was so happy I went anyway – my mouth was watering before I even got in the door!
I’m not a seafood eater, but theirs looked pretty damn good – as did the sweet potato fries topped with melted gruyere, marshmallows (!!), mozzarella and sour cream. I can vouch for the Truffle Yakiniku Donburi bowl – it was amaaazzzinng.
If you head there for dinner, their happy hour between 5-8pm features $2 oysters as well as deals on sashimi, cocktails and beers.
This place is perfect for a mid (or post) shopping spree meal.
Addresses: Orchard Central (181 Orchard Road #04-01), Kapok @ National Design Centre (111 Middle Road #01-05)
Open hours: Varies between outlets, Orchard location is 11:30am – 10:30pm
Prices: Depending on how hungry you are, expect to spend $40-ish per person
Getting there: A short walk from Somerset and Bencoolen MRT Stations
Just want to walk around and find something that looks good?
I’d recommend the Telok Ayer area where there are tonnes of options, including a whole heap of great local restaurants and cafes on Telok Ayer and Amoy Streets.
Close by you’ll also find the Maxwell Food Centre. Hawker centres are a Singapore food must-do, and Maxwell is one of the best. Hawker Centres in Singapore are meticulously health rated, and must clearly display their certification. A’s are rare, B’s are most common and I’ve never had a problem. I have a weak stomach so haven’t tempted a C.
Just want to stay in?
After a long day in the heat, I’ve often felt like I just can’t be bothered to go out again in the evening.
Rather than getting expensive (and often crappy) room service, order through Foodpanda. Compared to similar apps in Australia, they have heaps of great options – and delivery is typically super quick.
There’s also a new guy on the market called WhyQ that delivers from hawker centres only. They currently have a limited delivery area, but pop your address in anyway, can’t hurt to look, right!?
Don’t forget to carry cash
Cash is still king in Singapore and yet, strangely, ATMs are hard to come by in more local areas. Don’t forget to always have a little bit on you! Though this is slowly changing, about half of the items in the list above will only take cash, and hawker centres are definitely cash only.
Looking for more things to do in Singapore?
I recently stumbled on the most incredible guide book for Singapore – I wish I knew about this little gem earlier, it has ALL my favourite spots in Singapore covered (you know, the ones it’s taken me a few years to find!!).
It’s called the “Lost Guides – Singapore: A Unique, Stylish and Offbeat Travel Guide to Singapore” and it’s not your typical Lonely Planet style guide book. You can pick up a copy on Amazon here. Or, if you’re already in Singapore they stock them at one of my favourite shops, Books Actually in Tiong Bahru, who is also featured in the guide.
Saving for a trip? Read my 11 tips to help you save money for travel
Man, just writing this up is making me hungry! Singapore food does not disappoint. My final word of advice would be, be adventurous.Like anywhere, locals vote with their feet and if there's a queue you're almost guaranteed to find something amazing.Click To Tweet